Wednesday, August 11, 2021

How many US presidents had red hair? The complete list

 On the internet, you'll find many lists of red-haired US presidents, but I bet this one is the most complete.

Here are the red-haired American presidents we've found so far. Click on the names and you'll be redirected to their posts.

1) George Washington, 1st president

2) Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president


 3) Andrew Jackson, 7th president, Democratic Party

4) Martin van Buren, 8th president, Democratic Party

5) Franklin Pierce, 14th president, Democratic Party


6) Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president, Republican Party

7) Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president, Republican Party

8) Calvin Coolidge, 30th president, Republican Party

9) Dwight Eisenhower, 34th president, Republican Party

10) John F. Kennedy, 35th president, Democratic Party

And that's 10 of them! Since we are currently at 46th president, this means that roughly the 22% of them had red hair, which is huge, since, as you know, redheads are only the 2% of the world population. It's only the Scottish and Irish heritage of first Americans or there's something more? Ai posteri l'ardua sentenza, as the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni put it. 😉

And, if in your country you had red-haired presidents, please let us know!

PS: according to some, Donald Trump too has (or, at least, had) red hair, but in photos taken when he was younger, it looks more light brown to me.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Si-Te-Cah: a tribe of red-haired giant cannibals?

According to Paiute people's oral history, the Si-Te-Cah, Saiduka or Sai'i are a legendary tribe whose mummified remains were allegedly discovered under four feet of guano by guano miners in what is now known as Lovelock Cave near Lovelock, Nevada. The miners destroyed many of the artifacts, but archaeologists were still able to retrieve 10,000 Paiute artifacts from the cave. Items included tule duck decoys, sandals, and baskets, several dating back over 2000 years.

One of the duck decoys found in Lovelock Cave.


 "Si-Te-Cah" literally means "tule-eaters" in the language of the Paiute people. Tule is a fibrous water plant. In order to escape harassment from the Paiutes, the Si-Te-Cahs were said to have lived on rafts made of tule on the lake.

Entrance to Lovelock Cave

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins (1844 - 1891), daughter of Paiute Chief Winnemucca, wrote about what she described as "a small tribe of barbarians" who ate her people in her book Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims. She wrote: "My people say that the tribe we exterminated had reddish hair. I have some of their hair, which has been handed down from father to son. I have a dress which has been in our family a great many years, trimmed with the reddish hair. I am going to wear it some time when I lecture. It is called a mourning dress, and no one has such a dress but my family." Hopkins does not mention giants.

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins

A written report by James H. Hart, the first of two miners to excavate the cave in the fall of 1911, recalls that in the north-central part of the cave, about four feet deep, "was a striking looking body of a man 'six feet six inches tall.' His body was mummified and his hair distinctly red." Unfortunately, in the first year of mining, some of the human remains and artifacts were lost and destroyed. "The best specimen of the adult mummies was boiled and destroyed by a local fraternal lodge, which wanted the skeleton for initiation purposes." Also, several of the fiber sandals found in the cave were remarkably large, and one reported at over 15 inches (38 cm) in length was said to be on display at the Nevada Historical Society's museum in Reno in 1952.

According to scholars, the 'giant' interpretation of the skeletons from Lovelock Cave and other dry caves in Nevada was started by entrepreneurs setting up tourist displays and that the skeletons themselves were of normal size. As for red hair, they say hair pigment is not stable after death and various factors such as temperature, soil, etc. can turn ancient very dark hair rusty red or orange. However, other scholars say that, unless hair is exposed to light, it's unlikely that any change in colour would take place. Also, the myth of Si-Te-Cah being red-haired existed before Lovelock Cave was discovered, so... what did it stem from?

Moreover, in South America (where natives are black-haired like natives of North America) ancient statuettes have been found, depicting people with red or blond hair. This could mean that in the past light hair was more common than today among American natives.

Moche culture statuette. Please note Amerindians don't have facial hair.

Vichama statuettes, dating to 1800 BC.


Friday, August 6, 2021

The Red-Haired Mummies of Peru and Chile

The Paracas culture was an Andean society existing between approximately 800 BC and 100 BC.
It was located in what today is the Ica Region of Peru. Most information about the lives of the Paracas people comes from excavations at the large seaside Paracas site on the Paracas Peninsula, first formally investigated in the 1920s by Peruvian archaeologist Julio Tello (1880 - 1947).

The Paracas Cavernas are shaft tombs set into the top of Cerro Colorado, each containing multiple burials.
Each burial consisted of a conical textile-wrapped bundle, most containing a seated individual facing north across the bay of Paracas, next to grave offerings such as ceramics, foodstuffs, baskets, and weapons. Each body was bound with cord to hold it in a seated position, before being wrapped in many layers of intricate, ornate, and finely woven textiles. The Paracas Necropolis textiles and embroideries are considered to be some of the finest ever produced by Pre-Columbian Andean societies. They are the primary works of art by which Paracas culture is known. Burials at the necropolis of Wari Kayan continued until approximately 250 AD. Many of the mortuary bundles include textiles similar to those of the early Nazca culture, which arose after the Paracas.

Most of the mummies have reddish, blondish and brownish hair. Here are the reddish ones.


Some speculate that the red “hats” of the Moai of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) represent the hair tied into a top knot, and many of these large stone figures were made prior to the arrival of Polynesians, who first came there about 100 AD, at the earliest.


 The Chinchorro mummies are mummified remains of individuals from the South American Chinchorro culture, found in what is now northern Chile. They are the oldest examples of artificially mummified human remains, having been buried up to two thousand years before the Egyptian mummies: the oldest anthropogenically modified Chinchorro mummy dates from around 5050 BC. While many cultures throughout the world have sought to focus on preserving the dead elite, the Chinchorro tradition performed mummification on all members of their society, making them archaeologically significant. The decision of egalitarian preservation is proven in the mummification of the relatively less productive members of society (meaning those who could not contribute to the welfare of others; the elderly, children, infants and miscarried fetuses). It is often the case that children and babies received the most elaborate mummification treatments.

Here are the ones with red hair. 


Thursday, August 5, 2021

Ginger, the Gebelein Man

The Gebelein predynastic mummies are six naturally mummified bodies, dating to approximately 3400 BC from the Late Predynastic period of Ancient Egypt. They were the first complete predynastic bodies to be discovered. The well-preserved bodies were excavated at the end of the nineteenth century by Wallis Budge, the British Museum Keeper for Egyptology, from shallow sand graves near Gebelein (today, Naga el-Gherira) in the Egyptian desert.

Budge excavated all the bodies from the same grave site. Two were identified as male and one as female, with the others being of undetermined sex. The bodies were found in foetal positions (knees raised towards their heads), lying on their left sides, which was the most common form for Egyptian burials of the time.

Since 1901, the first body excavated (EA 32751) has remained on display in the British Museum. This body was originally nicknamed Ginger due to his red hair, although now this nickname is no longer officially used. 


He was 1.63 metres high (5.3 feet). The body has all teeth present and healthy and there are tufts of ginger-coloured hair on the scalp. There are fractures to the ribs, right pubic ring, both thigh bones, shin and calf bones but there is no evidence of arthritis. In November 2012 it was revealed that "Ginger" had probably been murdered. A CAT scan of the mummified body taken at the Cromwell Hospital in London showed that he was aged about 18 to 20 at the time of his death and was well-muscled. Under his left shoulder blade, the scan revealed a puncture to the body; the murder weapon was used with such force that it slightly damaged the shoulder blade, but shattered the rib beneath it and penetrated the lung. It was believed that the injury was caused by a copper blade or flint knife at least 12 cm in length and 2 cm wide. Daniel Antoine, the British Museum's expert on human remains, believes that Gebelein Man had been taken by surprise by the attack as there were no defense wounds.

The mummies were acquired by the British Museum in 1900 and Ginger went on display in 1901, and was the earliest mummified body seen by the public. Apart from maintenance, it has been on continuous display in the same gallery.

The head of EA 32751 showing the preserved hair.

Of the other five bodies, only the female adult, given museum number EA 32752, has been exhibited. In 1997-8 the body was part of a tour to Rome as part of the Palazzo Ruspoli, Ancient Faces exhibition. Again in 2001 the body went to Birmingham as part of the Gas Hall Egypt Revealed exhibition.In 2001, before going out on loan, the body had some restoration using Japanese kozo paper to secure a loose finger, reattach a rib and reattach some locks of hair. 

In the predynastic period bodies were usually buried naked and sometimes loosely wrapped. In such a burial, when the body is covered in warm sand, the environmental conditions mean that most of the water in the body is quickly evaporated or drained away, meaning that the corpse is naturally dried and preserved. This method was widely used in the pre-dynastic Egyptian period, before artificial mummification was developed.


1400 Famous Redheads!

 We are proud to announce that our partner blog Famous Redheads in History has just reached 1400 famous redheads!

If you don't know it yet, go and check it out. You can easily browse it both via the search button and the labels. We're sure you'll find lots of redheads you would never imagine. 😄

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Tarim Mummies

The Tarim mummies are a series of mummies discovered in the Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, which date from 1800 BC to the first centuries BC. The mummies, particularly the early ones, are frequently associated with the presence of the Indo-European Tocharian languages in the Tarim Basin, although the evidence is not totally conclusive. Victor H. Mair's team concluded that the mummies are Caucasoid, likely speakers of Indo-European languages such as the Tocharians.

Most of the mummies were found on the eastern end of the Tarim Basin (around the area of Lopnur, Subeshi near Turpan, Loulan, Kumul), or along the southern edge of the Tarim Basin (Khotan, Niya, and Cherchen or Qiemo).


Map of Eurasia showing the location of the Xiaohe cemetery, the Tarim Basin and the areas occupied by cultures associated with the settlement of the Tarim Basin.


Many of the mummies have been found in very good condition, owing to the dryness of the desert and the desiccation it produced in the corpses. The mummies share many typical Caucasian body features (tall stature, high cheekbones, deep-set eyes), and many of them have their hair physically intact, ranging in color from blond to red to deep brown, and generally long, curly and braided. Their costumes, and especially textiles, may indicate a common origin with Indo-European neolithic clothing techniques or a common low-level textile technology.

It has been asserted that the textiles found with the mummies are of an early European textile type based on close similarities to fragmentary textiles found in salt mines in Austria, dating from the second millennium BCE. Anthropologist Irene Good, a specialist in early Eurasian textiles, noted the woven diagonal twill pattern indicated the use of a rather sophisticated loom and said that the textile is "the easternmost known example of this kind of weaving technique.


"Tocharian donors", with light hair and light eye color, 7th century CE fresco, Qizil, Tarim Basin, Xinjiang, China.


Mitochondrial DNA analysis showed that maternal lineages carried by the people at Xiaohe included mtDNA haplogroups H, K, U5, U7, U2e, T and R*, which are now most common in West Eurasia. Also found were haplogroups common in modern populations from East Asia: B5, D and G2a. Haplogroups now common in Central Asian or Siberian populations included: C4 and C5. Haplogroups later regarded as typically South Asian included M5 and M*.

Of the paternal lines of male remains surveyed nearly all – 11 out of 12, or around 92% – belonged to Y-DNA haplogroup R1a1, which are now most common in Northern India and Eastern Europe; the other belonged to the exceptionally rare paragroup K* (M9). The R1a1 lineage suggests a proximity of this population with groups related to the Andronovo culture, i.e. early Indo-Europeans.

The Xinjiang mummies have added another bone of contention to the raging ethnic conflict in Xinjiang, where Uighurs, a Turkic speaking people, consider themselves to be the indigenous population and the Han Chinese foreign invaders from the east. Here's an interesting article about he mummies, covering their political imlications as well. 

 Let's have a look at the mumies described as having red hair.


The Beauty of Loulan

The Beauty of Loulan is the most famous of the Tarim mummies, She was discovered in 1980 by Chinese archaeologists working on a film about the Silk Road. The mummy was extremely well preserved because of the dry climate and the preservative properties of salt and was surrounded by funerary gifts. The Beauty of Loulan lived around 1800 BCE, until about the age of 45, when she died. Her cause of death is likely due to lung failure from ingesting a large amount of sand, charcoal, and dust. Her hair has been described as auburn or reddish blond. 


The Cherchen Man


Cherchen Man or Chärchän Man or Ur-David is an adult male who is believed to have died around 1000 BC and is likely to have been aged around fifty years at the time of his death.

His height is estimated at 176–178 cm. His hair was "reddish brown flecked with grey, framing high cheekbones", he had an aquiline "long nose, full lips and a ginger beard", and was wearing "a red twill tunic" and leggings with a pattern resembling tartan. Yellow and purple spiral and sun patterns on the mummies face have been misidentified as tattoos in some sources; they are actually an ochre paint. The robe on the main of his two wives is so fine that it is hard to imagine how their weaving technology could have reached such an advanced stage by that time. In a small grave next to the main tomb, a baby was found wearing a shroud of the same burgundy color and a blue cashmere cap.


The Princess of Xiaohe



The Princess of Xiaohe is the oldest Tarim mummy, dating to 3800 years ago. When the cover of her boat coffin was removed, she was found wearing a grand white hat of felted wool. The coffin boat was filled with small pouches containing herbs. She has fair skin, red hair, long eyelashes and a felt hat resembling an alpine head covering with a long feather stuck in the top.

Here's an article about these and other Tarim mummies and here you can find HQ pictures of them.

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Ransom of Red Chief

"The Ransom of Red Chief" is a short story by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter, 1862 – 1910) first published in the July 6, 1907 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. It follows two men who kidnap, and demand a ransom for, a wealthy Alabamian's son. Eventually, the men are driven crazy by the boy's spoiled and hyperactive behavior, and they pay the boy's father to take him back.

O. Henry


Here's the plot:

" Two small-time criminals, Bill and Sam, kidnap Johnny, the 10-year-old red-haired son of Ebenezer Dorset, an important citizen, and hold him for ransom. But the moment that they arrive at their hideout with the boy, the plan begins to unravel, as the boy actually starts to enjoy his kidnappers. Calling himself "Red Chief", the boy proceeds to drive his captors to distraction with his unrelenting chatter, malicious pranks, and demands that they play wearying games with him, such as riding 90 miles on Bill's back pretending to be an Indian scout. The criminals write a ransom letter to the boy's father, lowering the ransom from $2,000 to $1,500, believing that the father won't pay much money for his return. The father, who knows his son well and realizes how intolerable he will be to his captors and how eager they will soon be to rid themselves of the delinquent child, rejects their demand and offers to take the boy off their hands if they pay him $250. The men hand over the money and the howling boy – who had actually been happier being away from his strict father – and flee while the father restrains his son from following them. The ironic situation is where the kidnappers have to pay the father to get his son back (or in truth, to actually agree to even accept him back) instead of the father's paying the kidnappers for the return of his son."

First appearance in The Saturday Evening Post.  


 "The Ransom of Red Chief" has been adapted many times, directly and indirectly, with films and telefilm episodes. Two of the films include the 1952 The Ransom of Red Chief starring Fred Allen and Oscar Levant and Le Grand Chef, a French direct adaptation made in 1959 by Henri Verneuil, with Fernandel and Gino Cervi.


Here you can read the short story.